Written December 1, 2006
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter and subsequent domains. I am not making any profit.
Summary: CHARACTER DEATH. What if the knack for close calls fails? Sometimes success can only be brought about by loss. CoS AU/One Shot
The Basilisk lunged at Harry one final time. Its fang simultaneously pierced Harry's arm as Harry drove the sword of Godric Gryffindor through the roof of its mouth. As the great serpent died and its body fell away, the fang snapped off and the boy pulled the long, sword like tooth from his flesh.
Harry dropped to the floor of the Chamber of Secrets. "No!" the memory of Tom Riddle angrily cried out from behind him. "The Basilisk is dead, Potter, but so are you." White-hot pain tore along Harry's bloodstream and through his body. He scrambled to Ginny's prone form and the diary next to her. "The bite of the Basilisk is fatal and soon it will be you who will be nothing but a memory." Riddle's own form became more substantial and clear by the minute as he drew Ginny's life force from her.
Ron Weasley struggled to shift the rocks blocking the only way in or out of the Chamber. When Professor Lockhart's spell misfired, part of the entrance tunnel had collapsed. Lockhart, as pretty as he was, had accidentally erased his own memory. "Is this where I live? What an odd place." He was of no help to anybody.
Ron was straining his small twelve-year-old body to move a boulder that was heavier than him by half. He hoped his younger sister was all right, but there was nothing he could do trapped where he was. "Please be alright, Ginny." He thought back to all the times he wasn't particularly nice to his only sister.
The boulder started to shift and Ron dug his feet in. Harry couldn't face the Basilisk alone. Pulling with all his might the rock shifted and rolled down opening a way through the fallen rock. Ron lost his balance and the stone crushed down upon him before moving away again.
"Bloody-, argh!" Shooting pain sparked through his chest cavity where a rib had pieced both skin and lung. Very quickly breathing became a challenge and each breath was shorter and harsher than the one previous.
Fawkes found a brief relief from the struggle with the Basilisk, and flew to where Harry's best friend lay drowning with no water. Ron's vision began to blur and it was hard to resist closing his eyes. The pain in his chest reached its peak and Ron heard a call, a trilling unknown song, as through far away. He opened his eyes again to the soft song, a flutter. The dream before him was great, but sad. A grand bird stood before him. It was the size of a swan. The feathers sparkled and gleamed the colors of Gryffindor. Its tail was more brilliant than a peacock's. It looked down kindly, but it was crying. Ron couldn't watch the vision any longer and closed his eyes once more as he barely registered the wet drops landing on his wounds.
Riddle stood proudly before Harry. "You're dead, Harry Potter. Dead." He smiled, "Soon Lord Voldemort will return." The serpent's fang spread poison through the Boy-Who-Lived's body, His vision began to blur and the pain increased ten-fold. He cried out as a spasm shook his scrawny form and his left leg locked up.
"I'm going to sit here and watch you die Harry Potter. Take your time, I'm in no hurry," said Riddle's distant voice. Harry lifted the Basilisk fang still gripped white-knuckled in his hand. "Wait, what are you doing?"
Harry pulled the small dark blur that was the diary closer to him. "No, stop that," Riddle stepped forward. Harry wasted no time and instinctually stabbed the basilisk fang he was clutching into the wretched diary. As the ink spilled like blood from its pages the memory of Riddle screamed before disappearing. Harry blindly stabbed the book four or five more times.
Life returned to Ginny Weasley. Her body changed from ice cold to warm. Blinking awake, the eleven-year-old girl sat up.
"Ginny," Harry whispered in the echoing chamber. The world was spinning and he was starting to feel rather drowsy. He clutched at his pierced arm and tried to focus his eyes on the girl's blurry form. His legs had ceased all motor function, but still hurt as fire tore through the muscle tissue.
Ginny gasped taking in the torn robes, blood, and grime. "It was me, Harry," the redhead confessed. "I tried to tell you that once, but I couldn't with Percy there. I killed the roosters and painted the messages on the walls. I didn't mean to, but Riddle made me. The last thing I remember he was coming out of the diary…"
"Listen to me Ginny." Harry spoke with an eerie calm. "Riddle and the Basilisk are no more. Follow the Chamber and you'll find Ron. No matter what happens, you've got to get yourself out." Ginny nodded wide-eyed.
"Harry, your arm."
"It's alright. Go on, I'll be along in a minute." The youngest Weasley was about to refuse when Harry cried out in pain and slumped completely onto the cold stone. The poison was shutting Harry's organs down one by one. He breathed a few more shallow breaths before his chest stopped moving completely. Throwing herself over him Ginny screamed his name, but to no avail. With no response, it soon became clear to the young girl that he was the Boy-Who-Lived-No-More.
Ron woke to the sound of a piecing cry echoing down from the chamber. "Ginny," he breathed with only a slight gurgle. He sat up too suddenly and the movement jarred what injury the Phoenix tears could not reach and heal. It hurt too much to move but Ginny and Harry were in trouble. Ron made to try to stand up, but the bird from his dream appeared and swooped down and sat on his legs. It was obvious the majestic bird didn't think it was wise for him to go anywhere.
The four Heads of House met in Hogwart's staff room. The Headmaster's office had been inaccessible since Lucius Malfoy and the other school governors had dismissed him. McGonagall was already seated when the other three Professors entered. The Potions Master was the last one to step through the door.
"All the Slytherins are accounted for," said Professor Snape. His drawn face was paler than normal. Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall could tell he was on edge, and no wonder. With Albus Dumbledore gone and Hogwarts to close, Severus would be forced to leave the protection and security that had kept him an alive and free man since Voldemort's fall.
He nervously played with his fingers before forcing them to grip the chair back he was standing behind. "I haven't seen Lockhart since the lockdown went into effect. I suspect he's already left the school grounds." He smirked at finally having the annoying man out of the way.
Despite the news, Minerva remained just as tense as her colleague. Professor Sprout seemed to be more composed than the rest of them. "My Hufflepuffs are safely in their dormitory. They've asked me to inquire if there is anything they could do to help." Minerva shook her head.
Professor Flitwick nodded in approval. "No Ravenclaws are missing and I've assigned the other Professors to different Houses to watch over the students while we're under lockdown." No matter how dire the situation Filtwick's voice always came out overly chirpy. "Except for Gilderoy, all the professors and staff have been accounted for. Filch is checking on the house elves in the kitchens and securing several other areas of the castle."
The Deputy Headmistress was usually a formidable woman, but now her shoulders slumped. "Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley are both unaccounted for." She put her face into her hands. "I'm afraid we must act quickly if we are to see them again alive."
"We don't even know where the Chamber is," exclaimed Professor Sprout, voicing the thought in everyone's mind.
McGonagall sat up straight. "We need to start right away. Pomona, stay with Poppy and prepare the Mandrake Juice to unpetrify everyone. Severus, Filius, and I will split up and search the castle. If you see any of the ghosts have them help in the search and send an alert if you find anything. I've already alerted the school governors to our situation."
With her command presence recovering, they felt a hopeful purpose reenergizing the faculty. McGonagall stood up, "Also, I don't want Fitch involved as a potential victim. Find him and have him stay in the nearest House. We haven't much time." They all hurried to their tasks.
Striding down the corridor, Professor Snape went searching for the Golden brat and sidekick.
It was half an hour later when in the second floor corridor Snape came across two ghosts arguing. "What is this ruckus," he said coldly stopping the moaning girl and the nearly beheaded from continuing. "Why are you not patrolling the school?"
The girl ghost only started wailing and floated through a door marked as a girls lavatory. Severus scowled. Apparently what intimidation tactics worked on the living had little affect on the departed.
Nearly-Headless Nick managed to look embarrassed at such immature bickering. "Miss Myrtle refuses to allow any of ghosts into her haunting grounds. Being one of the few persons to have actually perished here, she has the ability to keep the rest of us out. Nor will she say if any of the students have been this way."
"Very well, I'll look into it. Continue your search." If the thirty-six year old Potions Master felt any hesitation in entering the girls lavatory, he did not show it and boldly marched into the unused room.
Whatever he was expecting this was not it. Where the sinks normally sat was an open hole. It appeared to have no bottom, being a straight drop disappearing into the dark. Snape nearly sighed and conjured his patronous to send a message to McGonagall.
In the meantime, Moaning Myrtle had kept busy by flooding the toilets wailing and moaning as usual. Seeing the greasy-haired man invading her place of death she yelled at him, "Go away!"
Not having the friendly patience of Harry Potter, the Professor crossed his arms and glared at the transparent girl. "Did Potter come here?"
"I said 'GO AWAY!'" With that Moaning Myrtle resumed her previous activities. Snape pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. Finding that time was running out on him fast he moved to the edge of the entrance in the ground. "Dammit Potter." He jumped.
It was a rather cold for an early summer evening. Albus Dumbledore was enjoying his evening walk through the park. He couldn't help but feel uneasy being this far away from his school. Something was happening. He just knew it. It hoped it wouldn't be too much longer before the governors reinstated him as Hogwarts Headmaster.
At a previous visit to the Ministry of Magic Dumbledore had been pulled to the side by several of the school governors who had nearly begged for protection. They revealed the veiled threats against their families issued from Lucius Malfoy.
Heavy footsteps were coming up behind him and Albus stopped to greet the person. Arthur Weasley stopped a meter from him and tried to catch his breath. "Headmaster," he panted.
"Arthur, what a fine evening it is. What can I do for you?" He smiled benignly, but the man hardly seemed to appreciate it.
"The school governors have approved your immediate reinstatement. You are to return to Hogwarts as soon as possible."
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. He would be able to protect his students. "What led to this sudden turnabout," he asked curious as to the reason they would give.
Arthur was starting to seem more frantic by the minute. "There's been another attack at the school." He looked pained. "It's Ginny. She's been taken into the Chamber of Secrets."
Severus would never admit it, but the ride up from the Chamber had been exhilarating. He doubted he would get a repeat performance from the Headmaster's Phoenix. It was a mild diversion from the truth he had trouble wrapping his mind around.
Fawkes set the Potions Master down on the lavatory floor. The atmosphere was somber. Even Moaning Myrtle had stopped moaning. It had taken Fawkes two trips. First, the great bird carried up the rescued Weasley, the injured Weasley, and the amnesiac Lockhart. The second trip Severus had carefully slung the lifeless Harry Potter over his shoulder and they were flown up to join the others.
The Potions Master couldn't even think clearly on the situation. He couldn't even bring himself to hate the dead boy like he had after the death of James Potter. What could he think when the brat who had been so vividly alive mere hours ago was gone forever, his likeness limp in his arms?
Myrtle peeked up over the walls of a cubicle. "Maybe Harry will be sharing my toilet," she said with a sad laugh.
"Maybe," said Ron quietly to the ceiling. He didn't really want to move from his position on the bathroom floor because his chest was still hurting something bad.
Ginny was sitting next to her brother with tears sliding down her face. Every time she looked in Snape's direction her crying increased. The Potions Master gently lowered Harry's body to the floor. He'd have to get Mr. Weasley to the hospital wing soon. The freckled boy was only alive due to the Phoenix's timely healing tears.
Rubbing at his forehead again, Snape ignored his itchy eyes. He could only bring one of the boys to the infirmary at a time. He didn't want to leave Harry unattended and he couldn't leave him with the literally absent minded Gilderoy Lockhart. Nor could Harry be left with the incredibly distraught Ginny Weasley whom Severus would not be surprised if the poor girl succumbed to shock at any moment.
Harry's deceased form was not pretty to look at. His body was stiff and cold. His skin was pale and waxy with a green sheen to it. There were bruises and lacerations covering his exposed skin and the blood that long ago dried and was beginning to flake. His school robes were torn, and soaked with blood, ink, and water. His face looked calm, there was some foaming at the corner of his mouth, his eyelids were closed, and the famous lightening bolt curse scar looked a mess. His dark hair was matted and greasy.
Coming to a decision, Severus pulled Harry's body into a fireman's carry and carefully aimed his wand, "Morbicorpus." Ron's body lifted into the air as if on an invisible stretcher. "We're going," he stated and strode ungainly out of the girls' lavatory with a dead boy on his back. Severus wondered if this was the price of his sins.